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We're walking dogs.

Me: My hands are fucken cold but I don't want to put my gloves on because then I'll get shit in my gloves.

Marcie: Yeah, I don't want to put my hands inside my pockets because then I'm going to have to tell the dry cleaner to wash out my coat pockets because I got shit off a Sharpei's dick in them.

Me: Sharpei dick shit.

Marcie: Yeah, got some Sharpei dick shit in my coat pocket ...

Me: You'll have to like ask the guy, Hey you got any of that special detergent to get out Sharpei dick shit?

Marcie: Fucken hate that.

We start laughing because there's nothing else to do. We're laughing because the whole situation is unprecedented. We're laughing semi-hysterically and then laugh even harder because we're laughing.

I've got tears streaming out of my eyes because I'm laughing so hard. I've never done this before. I want to wipe my eyes before the tears freeze but I can't because I've got shit on my hands.

The other volunteer walkers don't look at us in the way you don't look at the crazy person walking towards you on the sidewalk.

(For those of you who don't know Marcie Laking and are wondering who she is and why does the President of the Toronto Humane Society hang out with potty mouths like myself, I'd like to add a point of clarification.

Marcie Laking is awesome.

When it comes to animal welfare concerns, there aren't many people who have done as much as she has.

Marcie's been an animal rescuer/transporter/foster for years and continues to be. She is a proud owner of a Pit Bull Terrier, Ontario's scape goat of choice. She was integral to the dismantling of the previous regime at the Toronto Humane Society, saving that institution from an inglorious ruin. She ran and got elected to the THS Board of Directors. She was nominated by the departing President to be the new President and was given unanimous support by the board in this regard. Under her watch, the THS has reversed it's downward spiral and is on its way to becoming the animal welfare institution it was always meant to be. Pet food bank, spay neuter clinic, partnerships with rescues and other shelters, mending relationship with Toronto Animal Services, a clean and welcoming facility, better living conditions for the animals, better adoption practices for the animals.

No, of course she didn't do all this by herself. There are a ton of good volunteers and staff who contributed much, but if Marcie wasn't hands on every project, she at the very least helped make space to allow these projects to succeed - unlike the previous President before the regime change, unlike any previous President in the old THS.

Marcie is also a good part of the reason for why there is an ongoing transfer of dogs, from Quebec to the Toronto Humane Society and also why, on this particular trip about which I've been blogging, six dogs were saved who otherwise would likely still be shivering in their cages. The Quebec-THS transfers started several months ago over a discussion I had with Marcie and Mel (Marcie's sister) about the Quebec dogs who were coming in from Quebec to be rehomed by Toronto Animal Services South. They wanted to know how exactly those transfers took place. I passed along the information, helped with some introductions and a few weeks later, the first shipment of Quebec dogs arrived at the THS.

Since then, dozens, if not hundreds, of Quebec dogs have been rescued and adopted out by the THS, again, not without the tremendous work and effort of many THS staff and volunteers, but it's something which never would have started if not for the support and initiative from Ms. Laking.

When I talk about Marcie's support and initiative, I mean she's loud and pushy, speaks her mind, and tends to get her way when it comes to saving animals. The THS was in a state of disrepair when Marcie first got elected onto its board and now that she's the President, there's still much work which needs to be done and it's not going to get done by someone who is meek and mild and only ever says polite things.

Marcie is not just a champagne sipping, glad handing, never-get-your-fingernails-dirty charity baller. She also walks dogs, she picks up after them, she picks them up when they need picking up even if they're covered in filth. On our Quebec trip, she gets down and cleans out soiled cage after soiled cage so the dogs don't have to lie in their own piss and shit for another night in a row. She's not the one standing around with a toothsome smile on her face, playing the elite while everyone else does the work. She does the work. And if that's not someone's image of what a THS President should be doing, then too bad because that's the sort of classist thinking which would make most people walk away from large corporate-mentality organizations. Who wants to volunteer for a place where the people at the top think they're too good to be doing the actual work of taking care of real animals? What does that say about what the executives think about the rest of us, the ones who clean and walk and feed and train the dogs?

And Marcie swears as well, as I've noted in this post. She wasn't giving a speech. She wasn't at some formal event. She was with me. She was spending the day amongst some of the worst victims of puppy mill animal abuse either of us had ever seen. She's allowed to swear. She's allowed to react in a unscripted, emotionally raw way because that's how most people with a heart would react upon being confronted by evidence of cruelty on such a massive scale. In fact, if someone didn't react, if someone remained totally composed and nonplussed, I'd question whether or not they actually cared about the animals.

I've only ever met a few people who have given animal welfare such a high priority in their lives that it defines a good part of who they are and what they've accomplished. Marcie Laking is one of those people. She has concerns about the state of animal welfare and she's got the balls to do something about those concerns. There should be more like her.)

4 Comments to “Road trip 2”

  1. mel says:

    :] Ah yes. It all makes sense now. Are you there Sunday or are you heading back to Toronto?

  2. Fred says:

    We're heading back late Sunday morning.

  3. Anonymous says:

    A little tired, were you? *L*

  4. Anonymous says:

    Good bio on Marcie Laking. I don't know if the THS is the great animal rescue organization they want to be yet but they definitely need someone who is willing to talk the talk, walk the walk and get their hands dirty if they want their situation to improve. You should do a bio on their new CEO next.

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.